Mayor wants to “take the government” to other parts of the city – starting in Scarborough

11:29 a.m., March 6, 2018. The front of the Scarborough Civic Centre, where the next Executive Committee will be held on March 19.
11:29 a.m., March 6, 2018. The front of the Scarborough Civic Centre, where the next Executive Committee will be held on March 19.

March 6, 2018

By Arianne Robinson

Mayor John Tory wants to bring his Executive Committee meeting on the road.

The City of Toronto announced this week that the next Executive Committee meeting will be at Scarborough Civic Centre, and not, as usual, in Committee Room #1 at Toronto City Hall.

“I’m sorry it’s taken so long,” Tory said at a news conference at the Rexdale Community Hub on Tuesday morning.

The mayor said he would have held Executive Committee meetings at other locations earlier in his term, but it wasn’t possible because of “complications related to technology” and “legal requirements” that he said couldn’t be easily satisfied at civic sites other than city hall.

“None of these things are simple,” Tory said. “It’s a simple idea and it’s a sensible idea but it’s not simple to take all the steps necessary to have a fully legal compliant meeting in terms of the technology and things required to put them on.” Now, he said, there is a solution at the Scarborough Civic Centre and he hopes it will be the beginning of a new practice to move meetings around the city in the future.

Asked whether part of the motivation for the change of venue was a concern that members of the public may not attend because city hall is too far, the mayor said that’s not the case.

“I have no doubt that people who really needed to be at an Executive Committee meeting would get there [to city hall], but it’s just that they have to come a long way – from Scarborough, from Etobicoke, from North York – and we’re trying to turn that around a bit and take the government out to those parts of the city that are, after all, part of Toronto as well.”

A typical Executive Committee meeting is well attended by staff and members of the public. Out of 31 meetings this term, seven have gone past 10 p.m., and one has even gone into the next day, ending at 12:30 a.m. It’s not unusual for members of the public and interest groups to wait until past 10 p.m. to have their chance to make a public deputation to the mayor and committee members. They get between three and five minutes to speak to an item on the agenda, and have longer to speak if asked a question by a councillor.

This will not be the first time a committee meeting is held outside its usual location at Toronto City Hall. Council bylaws do allow the chair of a committee to change the day, time, and location of a committee or even city council meetings.

For example, community councils occur regularly at the city’s three primary civic centres in Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough. Budget sub-committees, whose meetings increased in frequency this term, have been held across the city. In 2015 the Board of Health held three meetings in each centre.

Last term, in 2013, under then-chair and Councillor Vincent Crisanti, the Etobicoke York Community Council met at the Church on The Queensway to consider a zoning application proposal for the redevelopment of the Humbertown Shopping Centre. Forty-five members of the public were recorded as making deputations.

In 2009, under then-chair and councillor Kyle Rae, the Economic Development Committee met in closed session at the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre. The purpose of the meeting, as stated in the clerk’s record, was “educating the councillors on the Toronto economy,” and included presentations from banks and other organizations.

The date of the next Executive Committee meeting, scheduled to be held at Scarborough Civic Centre, is March 19.

Those planning on attending by public transit should give themselves ample time for the commute. Google Maps advises travellers from near the North York Civic Centre to plan to leave at least 45 minutes in advance; those from the Etobicoke Civic Centre should give an hour and 45 minutes; from near Toronto City Hall, an hour and 15 minutes; and those travelling from other parts of Scarborough should give themselves about an hour depending on their exact location.

11:29 a.m., March 6, 2018. The Scarborough Civic Centre is located south of the proposed final stop of the Scarborough subway extension at the Scarborough Town Centre, near Hwy 401 and McCowan Road.
11:29 a.m., March 6, 2018. The Scarborough Civic Centre is located south of the proposed final stop of the Scarborough subway extension at the Scarborough Town Centre, near Hwy 401 and McCowan Road.